I like to read, especially during the winter, when it is difficult to do things outside. Recently I have been reading the book, Marathon: How One Battle Changed Western Civilization, by Mr. Richard A. Billows. This book makes a compelling and convincing case that the course of world history was indeed changed by the Greeks defeating the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. I found the book to be exciting, informative, and fun to read.
Mr. Billows is a professor at Columbia University specializing in Greek and Roman history. He specifically discusses the role of democracy, which he states began with the Kleisthenes in Athens, as one of the primary reasons leading to the Athenian resistance. The defeat of the Persians in Greece halted the westward expansion of the Persian empire. This eventually led to the decline of the Persian empire and to the rise of the Greek empire. As the Greek empire expanded it influenced western culture with its arts, architecture, philosophy, history, and theatrical drama and comedies.
The movie 300 popularized Leonidas and the Spartans who held off the Persians in a different battle, the Battle of Thermopylai. But it was really the Athenians, led by Miltiades, that changed the western world and made popular what we today take for granted.